The Power of Vote Swapping

I think it is of the utmost importance that you vote for Gary Johnson in November. Now, before you have an aneurysm, hear me out.

Most of you are probably aware that today Donald Trump is about a coin flip away from being the President. If you are as opposed to this outcome as I am, we need to band together to stop it. So why do we vote for Gary Johnson? The answer is vote trading.

We can change the course of this election. Here’s how it works:

1) If you live in one of these states:

New York
Washington, D.C.
West Virginia

2) Find all your friends who are undecided or are voting independent / green, who live in these states:

New Hampshire
New Mexico
North Carolina
Rhode Island

3) Call them up. Catch up. Talk about life. Tell them about how concerned you are about a Trump presidency. Express understanding of their desire to give legitimacy to, provide support for, and protest on behalf of Gary Johnson and/or Jill Stein. Propose to them that you will vote for their preferred candidate (which provides presumably the majority of the benefit they’re after in terms of giving their protest national legitimacy in popular vote totals) in exchange for the promise that they vote for Hillary Clinton in November.

Why is this valuable? Why is this important? With the help of some math, Nate Silver, and the abomination that is the electoral college, we can find out:

If you live in a state that is highly blue (DC, HI, MD, VT, CA, MA, NY) or highly red (NE, WY, OK, ID, AL, WV), it stands to reason that your individual vote (for either major candidate) has a very low likelihood of determining the winner of your state’s electoral college votes. Conversely, if you live in a highly contested state (CO, NH, NV, FL, PA, NC, MI), your chances of flipping the state are far higher. This is represented wonderfully by FiveThirtyEight’s “Voter Power Index.”

The “Voter Power Index” represents the relative likelihood that an individual voter in a given state will decide the outcome of the electoral college vote. Below is FiveThirtyEight’s assessment of the states whose individual voters have the most influence. This is largely a function of the competitiveness of the state and the expected number of voters. For example, NH’s 4.3 is twice VA’s 2.1, indicating that a New Hampshire voter is twice as likely to change the outcome of the election as a VA voter.

Voter Power Index - Most Valued States

Next, we look at the states in which an individual vote is far less likely to change the outcome of the election. This is where it gets interesting.

Voter Power Index - Least Valued States

Essentially what these charts tell is us that a New Hampshirite’s vote is over 43 times more influential than a Californian’s vote. I live in California, so this makes me sad.

But if I can trade my vote (and I did with 4 of my friends – who put their country above themselves) for votes in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, I can increase the power of my vote by 103000%. Now, normally I would recommend trading your vote 1 to 1 with a friend to be fair. But if you have wonderful, generous friends like mine, you can ask them if it is OK if you make the same agreement with others so that you trade your vote multiple times (the stakes are high, it’s worth asking).

Now, the first question I get is, “How do you know people will actually do it?” The answer is I don’t. I have no way of enforcing this swap, but I intend to keep my side of the bargain. I’ve done this with my friends and I recommend you start there too. If we can’t trust our friends, what kind of society are we? Look on the bright side, even if your counterparts do not honor their part of the deal, they were going to vote that way anyway and your vote doesn’t even matter that much relative to theirs (sorry, but it’s true).

I want to conclude with how important this could be. My vote is basically meaningless. I get that. I’m not butthurt about it. It’s worth 1. But if I trade my vote, it becomes worth 1030. 1030x a very small amount isn’t much. But what if 1000 people traded their votes. Well now that 1000 is worth a MILLION. If we get 100,000 people to do this we’ll magnify those 100,000 votes to have the same impact as 103 MILLION of those votes.

We don’t need to make a big splash, we don’t need to incoherently rant at strangers on Twitter, and we don’t need to completely change how we spend our time — we merely need to make a trade and pass it on. Share this idea. Talk to friends. Talk to friends about this idea. We *can* change this election.

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A Guide to Feel The Bern

This may seem like a post about politics, but it is not. This post is a list of ideas to share widely if you would like to improve Bernie Sanders’ slim chances of winning the Democratic nomination. If you’ve already decided to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, then this post will provide little-to-no value to your life and I suggest moving on.

Let’s start with some facts about the democratic primary process and current situation:

  • If and when a candidate reaches 2,383 pledged delegates he or she is guaranteed the party nomination. If he or she does not reach 2,383 pledged delegates then the nominee is decided at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, PA on July 25, 2016 by votes from the 719 superdelegates.
  • According to AP, Hillary Clinton has earned 1,716 pledged delegates and Bernie Sanders has earned 1,433 pledged delegates. Thus Hillary Clinton needs 667 pledged delegates to lock up the nomination before the DNC while Bernie Sanders needs 950 pledged delegates.
  • Superdelegate endorsements do not count towards the delegate totals until the convention. Those votes must be cast at the DNC.
  • According to the green papers and fivethirtyeight, there are 897 pledged delegates at stake in the remaining 11 primaries/caucus (KY, OR, VI, PR, CA, MT, NJ, NM, ND, SD, DC). It impossible for Sanders to lock up the nomination before the convention. This also means that Hillary needs 74% of the remaining pledged delegates to lock up the nomination before the convention.
  • Hillary has not earned more than 74% of the vote in any state outside the deep south. There are no states left to vote in the deep south. Furthermore, there are no states where she leads in the polls by a margin even close to what is required to earn 74% of the delegates so the likelihood of Hillary Clinton winning the democratic party nomination before the convention is lower than the probability of Bernie Sanders being president. It is a near certainty that the winner will be determined on July 25th at the DNC
  • Thus, all that matters is how the 719 superdelegates vote in July.

What these facts mean is that if you want Bernie Sanders to be the next president of the United States, you must build a coalition to persuade the superdelegates that Bernie Sanders is the right choice. Below are some ideas on how to do this and why Bernie Sanders is a substantially stronger opponent to Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton:

1) Hold Superdelegates Accountable – While they are not required to vote in line with their constituencies, the simple act of letting them know their re-election is on the line tends to hold more influence than reason when it comes to politics. Find the superdelegates from this list who are elected officials in jurisdictions where you vote. Write a letter telling them to support Bernie Sanders. This is especially important if they are currently endorsing Hillary. Let them know you know when they are up for re-election. Create a form letter. Ask all your friends in the same jurisdiction to send the letter to their superdelegates.

2) Vote for Bernie and get everyone you know to do the same – If you live in KY, OR, VI, PR, CA, MT, NJ, NM, ND, SD, DC, you still have an opportunity to show your support for Bernie Sanders. The more delegates you get your boy before the convention, the fewer of the superdelegates you need to “convince” in July. If Bernie goes to the convention with more pledged delegates than Hillary (unlikely, but possible), then boy are those “party elites” in a gigantic pickle.

3) Remind everyone that Hillary Clinton has poor net favorability ratings – Her favorability ratings are lower than Sanders’ and unfavorability ratings are higher than Sanders’ and recent trends are showing the gap widening.

Clinton Favorability

Sanders Favorability

4) Make sure everyone knows that this is not splitting hairs as her unfavorability is of epic and historic proportions – At least since this metric was broadly measured. And it isn’t even that close. Trump and Hillary are the only candidates in history who have over 50% of those polled viewing them unfavorably. Ask yourself if you want the president of the United States to be viewed unfavorably by more than half the population.

historical favorable

5) Bernie Sanders beats Trump by twice as much as Clinton does – Trump and Clinton were statistically tied in 3 of the last 10 polls. Sanders led Trump in every single one of the last 20 polls. Is this a risk you’re willing to take? Ask your superdelegate if that is a risk he or she is willing to take.



6) Remind everyone that Clinton is widely acknowledged as a poor campaigner and it is Trump’s strength – There are a number of compelling narratives that show how badly a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign against Donald Trump could go. Share this Current Affairs Article widely. It is a prescient and compelling horror story.

An excerpt of the article describing a hypothetical Donald Trump speech. Remember, this is the same man that has convinced millions of Americans that we are going to build a wall that costs double-digit billions and get Mexico to pay for it:

“She lies so much. Everything she says is a lie. I’ve never seen someone who lies so much in my life. Let me tell you three lies she’s told. She made up a story about how she was ducking sniper fire! There was no sniper fire. She made it up! How do you forget a thing like that? She said she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the guy who climbed Mount Everest. He hadn’t even climbed it when she was born! Total lie! She lied about the emails, of course, as we all know, and is probably going to be indicted. You know she said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! It was a lie! Thousands of American soldiers are dead because of her. Not only does she lie, her lies kill people. That’s four lies, I said I’d give you three. You can’t even count them. You want to go on PolitiFact, see how many lies she has? It takes you an hour to read them all! In fact, they ask her, she doesn’t even say she hasn’t lied. They asked her straight up, she says she usually tries to tell the truth! Ooooh, she tries! Come on! This is a person, every single word out of her mouth is a lie. Nobody trusts her. Check the polls, nobody trusts her. Yuge liar.”


7) Independent voters matter and they overwhelmingly support Sanders – According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 43% of registered voters are independents.


And it is widely reported that Sanders has overwhelming independent support.

The conclusions are simple:

  • If you want Bernie Sanders to win the presidency, you’re fighting an uphill battle and mobilizing now and mobilizing hard is your only chance.
  • If your only goal is to prevent Donald Trump from being president of the United States, ask yourself whether you’d put your money on Bernie or Hillary to get that job done.
  • Even if you think Hillary Clinton would be a marginally better president than Bernie Sanders, consider whether that marginal goodness is more important to you than a substantially increased likelihood of a Trump presidency.
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Socially Responsible Investing Will Soon Be The Norm

For the average investor, I am a strong proponent of investing in a diversified set of low-cost index funds which likely provides market-matching returns over the long run (or damn near close to it). Even though most investors under-perform this easy to achieve benchmark, many cannot help but try their hand at beating the markets because they do not want to settle for “table stakes.”

Given the reality that our cognitive biases, overconfidence, and desire to have fun in the markets frequently supplant our rational judgment when it comes to investing, why not make a positive expected value (I assert) bet with positive externalities? To this end, I recommend socially responsible investing as a way to “play the markets,” do real good, and potentially earn superior returns.

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that socially responsible investing (SRI) has the potential to outperform conventional portfolios over time and the purpose of this post is to provide a quick overview of logic that supports this argument.

Go to where the money will be.

Between today and my retirement, there is an estimated $30 Trillion of wealth that will transfer to millennials with almost $3 Trillion of that coming in the next 4 years. Pair this with the fact that millennials are 2x more likely to invest in companies that target specific social or environmental outcomes, and the fact that they are 2x more likely to exit an investment position because of objectionable corporate activity, and you are left with a large number of dollars that will systematically flow into socially responsible companies and out of objectionably behaved companies.

This story by itself, if you believe it, is enough to generate a sensible investment thesis that is bullish on socially responsible organizations. The icing on the cake (gluten free and organic, of course) is that these large flows of capital have the potential to create powerful, self-reinforcing engines: cash flowing to these businesses lowers their cost of capital, increasing their efficiency (or growth potential if you don’t buy efficiency), and generating superior returns that in turn attract more investors.

Too clean to fail.

With the growing importance of these issues as expressed by millennials as well as scientific facts (global warming, water scarcity, etc.), it is not unreasonable to think government subsidies for sustainable practices, both in terms of dollars and regulatory benefits, will continue to grow considerably in coming years.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence to suggest that the world will be afflicted with increased scarcity of resources (water, oil, fossil fuels) in our lifetimes. Business that begin to slowly shift to more sustainable practices will be well ahead of rising resource costs and business disruptions from supply shocks.

Socially responsible investing outperforms empirically, too

There is a study that studied studies that studied the relationship between environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and corporate financial performance (CFP). In total, some 2000 studies were evaluated. A staggering 90% of the studies suggests non-negative correlation between ESG and CFP. Put differently, 90% of the studies reviewed indicate that socially responsible companies perform equal to or better than those who do not follow that criteria.
While there are macroeconomic and regulatory tailwinds for ESG-positive companies in the coming years, historical evidence has already provided significant evidence of financial out-performance. While the basket of low-cost index funds may be “the market” of today, there is reason to believe that it will under-perform the “new market” of tomorrow that is more accepting of ESG-criteria. Do you want to be left behind? And implicitly support the destruction of the earth? Of course not.

Disclosure: I recently became an adviser to OpenInvest, a Y Combinator-backed startup whose mission is to make socially responsible investing the norm.

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